It’s a common issue for CIOs: “When I first started we had network and server sprawl and it was totally unmanageable,” explains IT director at Callaway Chinh Van, the market leader in golf equipment manufacturing.

“One of the things we say is that we are a big name but we are not a big company,” Van told Computerworld UK, “That means we don’t have a big IT department, we don’t have many staff to run the systems or servers, so some of our personnel for storage admin was only one to two deep. But we do need to grow, so applications and the needs of business users are growing.”

When Van started ten years ago Callway was operating with a mixture of vendors for storage: Hitachi, IBM and EMC. Van said: “From a performance perspective, the EMC technology evolved around features we wanted to leverage, like fully automated storage tiering (FAST) and data tiering.” Once Callaway reached its biannual technology refresh, Van started to consolidate around EMC, specifically the XtremIO all flash array.

Waiting for SAP

The consolidation process started as far back as eight years ago, when Van started looking at virtualisation to reduce server sprawl, “but we ran into SAP certification approval issues” he explains.

“SAP is always slow in certifying solutions. With EMC we find that they are not trying to sell you more things, they want to sell the right solutions for your needs. Only once we started to collaborate with EMC did they prove that we could work together with SAP, and prove that out.”

Following a proof of concept Callaway opted to run its SAP environment on the XtremIO all-flash cluster to remove bottlenecks from business processes, improve application latency and reduce data storage costs. Van then went about leveraging XtremIO to create snapshots and clones to reduce storage space around customer data. Van saw database wait times come down fifty percent immediately following implementation.

This gave Van and his team the agility to implement changes to mission critical business processes without the risk of breaking them during testing. He explains: “If we want to change a business process, for example, we can create a snapshot or clone in virtually less than five minutes and get the system up and ready to test for any warehouse shipment changes. So we don’t want to effect the process, we want to prove out the changes by leveraging the technology available with the EMC arrays.

“Virtualisation helps us prove that out and when we are upgrading and patching and that doesn’t go well, we can take snapshots and make fresh copies. Virtualisation helps us with VMware, and from a storage perspective EMC gives us many other features and benefits to react fast to business needs and service our own IT needs.”

Challenging market

“Golf is not a growing industry, it’s a very challenging business and customers are demanding better tech and more customisation,” Van explains. This customisation delivers a huge amount of customer data that multiple teams want to harness, so Callaway started to leverage EMC storage to make this available across the business in real-time.

“Golf is also challenging from an IT perspective in what we want to do is position our technology so that we aren’t the barrier, we want to be an enabler and a partner to the business.”

© Callaway

Harnessing consumer data

Van is also working with SAP to migrate their customer data to HANA for faster customer analytics and insights.

He explains: “Innovation to drive better insight to business decision making is a key driver this year. So we have systems and applications to provide insight into data we have on consumer behaviour on the way. To collect sales information and analyse that to better prepare and predict customer buying patterns. This helps gauge what inventory we need to stock, what we need to manufacture, so we don’t have excess inventory and deliver better revenue targets for ourselves.”

Callaway hasn’t had an integrated CRM system in place so all of this valuable customer data and insight was being lost. Van says he chose to move to HANA because he wants the sales teams to have real-time data so they can react to consumer buying habits on the fly, say if a club that is expected to be a hot seller starts underperforming then inventory can be amended quickly.

Being IoT ready

Van sees the next step in Callaway’s digital transformation coming through the internet of things (IoT). “We want to capture information on how they play, how to improve their game, so the digital experience is key.

“Take smart clubs: every golf company is doing it but we want to be the leader and use IoT and sensors in the golf clubs to capture the round. This is how we can engage the consumer, with real time information on performance and sensors and things like that.”

However with IoT comes an explosion of data, and Van needs to have the infrastructure in place for this ahead of time. “I have to be ready for the burst in data and have to be able to have infrastructure to provide this back to the user and that will be a challenge for us, but over the years we have reached the position where none of the infrastructure is older than two to three years in our data centre.”

Mergers and the cloud

Finally, as a custoimer of both vendors, Van says he is worried about price changes following the EMC merger with Dell: “There is the fear factor that now maybe [Dell] don’t have the competition, so the price mark might change. So that’s the fear as a customer, that the competitive advantage we can leverage in terms of price comes into doubt.”

Callaway decided against moving its workloads to the cloud. “We looked at the cloud solutions,” Van says, “but although they are very tempting at first we would have to move apps to the cloud and you can’t just move the storage there. We are mostly tied to enterprise applications, so moving from a placement and performance perspective it just wasn’t there. We need the higher availability downtime which the cloud vendors did not provide at that time, but we always look at it.” Van says that after a total cost of ownership analysis, “on-prem always wins when you take backups into account”.